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Today I share the ninth author interview in the Backdoor Survival Fall Book Festival. George Ure, the author of Broken Web The Coming Collapse of the Internet, shares his answers to my questions and is also providing one of my readers with a free copy of his book.
Before we begin, I would like to announce the winner of last week’s giveaway. “Sharon” has won a copy of The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency. Congratulations! I have contacted you by email for mailing instructions.
Here is Sharon’s favorite homesteading tip:
When we moved to the country we did everything wrong, bought a fixer-upper farm and house and bought a couple horses we only occasionally rode. 10 years later we felt the bite of the recession and decided we’d simplify. We bought 5 acres of raw land, put in a pre-made 12×32 shed that we turned into a very cozy and livable space, put up a quick pole barn and moved in a flock of 50 ducks and chickens, planted lots of fruit trees and plowed up a huge garden.
My advice, don’t try to make someone else’s homestead your own…find your own piece of raw land and dream big! This year we’re adding a few raised beds to the garden plot, adding more fruit and berries, and looking at jersey calves for future dairy production…and waiting for one of the horses to peacefully die of old age (she’s now 28). Dream big and start small. 🙂
Be sure to check out the details of this week’s giveaway below.
A Chat and Interview with George Ure
Tell me about your book, Broken Web: The Coming Collapse of the Internet. What is it about?
Simply put it’s about putting the whole future of humankind on the Internet…which to my way of thinking is not a very sound way of doing things. The internet is full of risks, but it’s almost like an STD: No one wants to talk about it. Yet, when you sit back and tally up the number of ways the Internet could fail, it gets to be an impressive assortment of risks.
And it only takes just one single risk to be even partly realized and we could have a ‘crisis of confidence’ in the online financial system that could collapse the entire world economic system.
What type of research did you have to do while writing Broken Web?
A lot of the book was just pulling together a lot of news stories that I’d been collecting over the years. Even recent stories, too, like about the local Internet outages that happen every day, and the regional ones that happen “sometimes”. And you saw, no doubt, about how Amazon was apologizing just this week for the Christmas Eve Netflix problems?
So to a large extent – maybe 50% of the book really fell out of ‘headline clipping.’ The rest is more interesting.
As you know from our offline conversations, one of the best ways to do research I’ve found is to search only .PDF files. Easy enough to do on Google. All you do is put in a search term like “internet outage” and then append it with “+.pdf”. That tells Google you want internet outage material, but only that stuff which has a .PDF to it. What this does is throw out a lot of the meaningless returns and gets you down to the academic and research levels because a lot of scientific and academic works are published as .PDF’s. Makes it easy to get “deep” and forward-looking views. As an example, here’s a paper which is an analysis of “country-wide Internet outages.”
Now, while these were caused by censorship, it will give you an idea on how important owning an Internet kill-switch is, since the very first example in the paper deals with the January 27, 2011 outage of 23-million users who had the net shut off from under them.
So when you think “Gee, could that happen here?” I think it makes for a pretty good book topic, especially in the land of credit cards which depend on the Internet to work. Even to buy a cheeseburger!
How long did it take to write?
Actually, it took about 3-weeks. One week for the research and organizing, one week for the writing, and a week – and then some as I remember – for the clean-up.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am when it comes to writing. Back when I was a newscaster in the 1970’s, we had to write everything that went into a five-minute newscast. As a junior reporter, that took a full hour to get done. People speak at about 120-words per minute on radio, so a five minute newscast was about 500-words. If you don’t type, that’s a lot.
By the time I made News Director, I had figured out how to use the station’s IBM Selectric (mothball) typewriter – even now, given a choice between an IBM Selectric and a computer? I’d take the IBM every time. Since we got along so famously, I could write a 500-word newscast in less than 15-minutes.
By the time I’d been a newscaster for 10-years, I could write an entire five minute newscast in about 6-minutes. So, as you can see, the reason the book went so quickly for me was that writing 6 hours per day at 80 words per minute is around 28-thousand words. Since the book is only 47-thousand words, give or take a comma, I suppose I should have buckled down and written it in two days, but I didn’t….just lazy I guess.
Seriously: The time it takes a seasoned writer to crank out a book ought to be about half the writer’s top writing speed. I used that to great advantage in school, by the way, since longer academic papers with the right cite and wherefores is an easy way to snag a degree. If you’re planning a couple of years to crank out the Great American Novel, then you’re either not cut out for writing OR you really should have learned to type – first!
Every book, fiction and non-fiction, includes a message. What message do you hope my readers will take with them after reading Broken Web?
Let me answer that in a kind of roundabout what, but it’s an example so it should make sense.
I fly an old airplane…built in 1966. Every year it has to go through a detailed annual inspection at a cost of usually over a thousand dollars. And one of the items on the “must inspect” list is something called the Jesus Bolts that attach the stabilator to the controls. They have that name because if they wear out, or are loose, you’d “Gonna be talkin to Jesus” real quick…they control the “back wing” on the airplane. Without that, you’re toast.
When you think about it, the Internet is exactly like those bolts: Sure, it’s cool to go flying – and sure it’s fun to go surfing, credit card clearing, online shopping, or wire transferring, and so forth on the net. But when you think about it, the Internet has become a kind of global Jesus Bolt. If it breaks – in a serious way, and whether it’s due to online terrorism, earthquakes, or sunspots – it doesn’t really matter what the fine distinctions are, we’d be in a ‘Jesus Bolt” failure mode.
Fuel deliveries would stop, water systems would fail, the grid would go down over time, and famine would come knocking shortly thereafter. Is that a message anyone wants to think about? Well, maybe not. But I think it’s pretty damn important.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Well, I could stand to lose a few pounds, maybe that’s why I think about famine…but seriously, I’m just your typical “adventurer” in life. Done broadcasting, electronics engineering, software engineering, been a vocational college president, lived on a sailboat almost 11-years, fly airplanes, owned a Porsche 930…happily married, and between the wife and I we pass out parenting advice to nine kids, all told. But they never listen.
Do you have plans for another book?
The most useful book I’ve ever done is ‘How to Live on $10,000 a year – or Less’ and I will be coming out with the update of that in the next month, or so. That’s been a great book not because it’s sold a lot of copies (which is has) but because it actually a changed people’s lives. I’ve had multiple emails from readers telling me that was the best $10-bucks they ever spent because it helped them to think about the “money equation” in life.
Basic idea is that before you can really change your life, you need to change your thinking. And then, once you have changed your thinking, everything else happens quickly and easily. Almost like life goes on autopilot.
Plenty of people, though, never stop to inspect the method of their thinking and go off trying to solve the problems of life using the same database, if you will that crashed on them in the first place.
Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
Something you and I have talked about forever, Gaye…and that’s the little matter of independent thinking and at the heart of that is an indefatigable “philosophy of inquiry.”
If you want to get anywhere near happiness in Life you have to sit back and ask all kinds of questions starting with questioning all the basic assumptions. Most people don’t take five minutes to understand where they are in the galactic scheme of things, but it’s really quite important to do so, in my opinion.
We these little creatures that live on this tiny, tiny rock in space and we spend all day scheming on minutia instead of looking at big issues and asking big questions. After a while, you’ll sort out those worthy of further study and the rest will get heaped on the “Too Hard” pile.
But in business, particularly, and in choosing a career path, asking the right fundamental question is a Life changer.
And that, is after all, what Broken Web was about for me: Yes, we assume the Internet is this huge “always going to work” platform. But what if it’s not?
That’s what keeps me up some nights.
The Book Giveaway
A copy of Broken Web The Coming Collapse of the Internet has been reserved for one lucky reader. You know how I like to make things easy so all you need to do to win is reply below in the comments area (or via email) with either a question for George, a question for me, or a question for both of us.
A winner will be selected next Friday at random using tools on the random.org website.
The Final Word
For those of you that have been around for awhile, you know that George and I have been friends since the 70s. That is a long time. We typically will talk by Skype video conferencing at least once a week. And if the internet goes away? I guess I better live up to my promise to learn how to use a ham radio.
In closing this week, I echo George’s words:
Yes, we assume the Internet is this huge “always going to work” platform. But what if it’s not? That’s what keeps me up some nights.
All I can say to that is ”me too:”.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Spotlight Item: Our spotlight book today is Broken Web The Coming Collapse of the Internet. I was lucky enough to follow the evolution of the book from start to finish and even made a few edits along the way. Now I await part 2 – which I am sure will be forthcoming later this year.
Bargain Bin: Listed below are all of the books in the Backdoor Survival Fall Reading List. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and a bit of something for everyone. Also, some of these books are Kindle e-books but you do not need a Kindle to read Kindle e-books. Simply download the free Kindle app from the Amazon site and you are good to go.
The Backdoor Survival Fall Reading List – Non-Fiction
Contact!: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival
Disaster Preparedness: Urban Preppers with Kids, Pets & Parents; Disaster Survival for the Family
Survive Any Food Crisis
The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning
Deep Web Secrecy and Security – Guide to the Deep Web and Beyond
Broken Web The Coming Collapse of the Internet
The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency
The Home Schooled Shootist: Training to Fight with a Carbine
The Backdoor Survival Fall Reading List – Fiction
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